Meet Kelcey Wright Johnson, a young reporter breaking new ground for women in sports media

Kelcey Wright Johnson is a former varsity basketball player turned sports reporter. Since graduating from Ryerson University and Western University just a few years ago, Kelcey has worked at four World University Games — the biggest international multi-sport event behind the Olympic Games — providing live play-by-play commentary, sideline reporting and highlight recaps. She is the only person in the world to do her job at the international games that host over 150 countries, and the only female Canadian to work for the host broadcast at four universiades. Kelcey has also worked as a reporter with the Toronto Pan Am Games and the North American Indigenous Games, and works full time as a sideline reporter and play-by-play commentator for two basketball leagues in Toronto. How’d she make her passion a life long career? Find out.

 

 


 

 

My first job ever was… A scorekeeper at my older brother’s basketball games. I got $20 a game and all I had to do was press a few buttons! Turns out my career now is not so different — I still get to watch the sport I love!

 

I would tell my 18 year old self… To not be so hard on myself.

 

I decided to be a sports reporter because… When I graduated from university, I wasn’t ready to hang up my basketball shoes and leave the sport altogether. I love that I still get to be involved in the sport that I grew up with and fell in love with, just in a different capacity.

 

My proudest accomplishment is… Being the only female Canadian to work for the host broadcast of the World University Games at four universiades — and the only person in the world with my job at the Games. It was a big accomplishment for me to have earned the scholarship to attend the 2013 Games in Russia, and every time I get invited back to work now, it just goes higher and higher on my accomplishment chart.

 

My boldest move to date was… Backpacking across Europe and Asia by myself, and then coming home for a week, packing my bags and moving to Nunavut for a year. What was I thinking, right?!

 

I surprise people when I tell them… That through work I’ve travelled to over six countries including Russia, Spain, Kazakhstan and Taiwan.

 

My best advice to people starting in this industry is… To make the most of every opportunity because you never know who is watching, or who might have a contact where. Every single opportunity can be used to further your career, you just have to use it to your advantage and do your very best.

 

My best advice from a mentor was… To be myself. I remember reaching out to LaChina Robinson — who was always one of my favourite female reporters — and after she watched my demo reel, she told me to loosen up a bit and look like I was having fun. I remember thinking ‘I am totally having fun at my job’ but at the beginning of my career I was too caught up in looking uber professional, I forgot to just relax and be me!

 

My biggest setback was… Being let go from my full-time job at the Toronto Star, twice in one year. I was laid off in January, and then they hired me back and laid me off again in August and it was devastating. But looking back — after a few tough nights and some soul searching — it turned out to be best thing that ever happened to my career.  

 

“At the beginning of my career I was too caught up in looking uber professional, I forgot to just relax and be me!”

 

I overcame it by… Embracing what was in front of me. After I lost my job again in August, I decided to really give full-time freelancing a chance, and I couldn’t be happier. Through freelancing, it’s allowed me to work from home and also take every opportunity without having to think about vacation days, or taking time off from my full-time gig. I’ve gone to and written travel articles on Orlando, Dallas, Iqaluit … I’ve travelled to Kazakhstan, Las Vegas, Halifax and Taipei, and I have been fortunate enough to say ‘yes’ every time NBA TV Canada asks me to be on their show, or the Toronto Rock ask me to host one of their games.

 

Being a woman in a male dominated industry has taught me… That if I want people to take me seriously, I have to take myself seriously. It’s also taught me how important it is to carry yourself with confidence.

 

Work/life balance is… Hard, and tiring, and a lot of work. I am so fortunate to have a partner that is so understanding and supportive of my career. When I travel abroad for a month, or am working 12-hour shifts that end at 3 a.m. and need a ride home, my husband is always there for me and on the sidelines cheering me on. It’s so important to have a solid support system.

 

If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I moved to British Columbia by myself in Grade 12 and lived with the NBA’s Kelly Olynyk and his family.

 

I stay inspired by… Focusing on my goals. I love where I am right now in my career, but I know that I still have a long way to go. I am so determined to get there that it inspires me everyday — I try and do one thing that will help my career each day, and it helps keep me on track.

 

The future excites me because… I have no idea where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing — but that’s the most exciting part about it. I could end up in California working the sidelines for the NFL, or I could be living in Timbuktu working as a sports anchor on the news. Who wouldn’t be excited for the unknown?

 

My next step is… Signing with a network or a team. The next step in my career is to sign my first big contract with a major network, or with a professional sports team — and I. CAN. NOT. WAIT!

 

 

How Olympic gold medalist Natalie Spooner is inspiring the next generation of girls

As a young girl growing up playing hockey, Natalie Spooner felt she didn’t have much to aspire to within the sport of hockey. Now an Olympic gold medalist and Canadian Women’s Hockey League All-Star, she’s inspiring the next generation of girls through initiatives like Project North and Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest.

 

 

By Shelley White

 


 

In the hamlet of Gjoa Haven, NU, Olympic gold medalist Natalie Spooner was almost 3000 kilometres north of her Toronto home when she got the chance to meet two young girls who reminded her of when she was a hockey-crazed kid.

In collaboration with Scotiabank, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, the National Hockey League, First Air and Project North, a not-for-profit organization, Natalie experienced the trip of a lifetime in helping bring hockey equipment and inspiration to Canada’s Northern communities.

“The girls’ teacher spoke up and said they were really into hockey and I got to take some pictures with them and speak to them. I could tell they were super excited that we were there and that we brought hockey equipment,” says Natalie, forward for Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) team – and 2014 Clarkson Cup champs – the Toronto Furies.

“It made me think of me when I was little – I also loved the game of hockey and it was my passion, so it was cool to be able to relate to them.”

It was one of many special moments for Natalie and her Project North teammates during their tour of six Nunavut communities in April. In addition to distributing 150 bags of new hockey equipment, the Rumie Initiative, a non-profit that makes access to free digital education possible for underserved communities, donated 150 tablets pre-loaded with educational content in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Community members also had the chance to see and touch the hallowed symbol of our country’s beloved sport, the Stanley Cup®, and meet Stanley Cup® champion, Lanny McDonald.

During her whirlwind tour, Natalie says it quickly became clear that hockey is just as popular in the North as it is in Canada’s more southerly locales.

“To meet the people and the kids up there, they might not have all the resources we have, but they love hockey. They have such a passion for the game,” she says.

As a kid growing up in Scarborough, ON, sports were a central focus in Natalie’s life. She says participating in everything from soccer to hockey to field hockey gave her a lot – physically, mentally and emotionally. Being on teams helped develop perseverance and responsibility, and hockey in particular was a great source of joy.

“I was a little bit shy when I was younger, and sports helped me have the confidence to go out there and play hard, and then feel accomplished after, knowing that I helped my team,” she says. “And I still feel like every time I get on the ice, it’s my happy place.”

 

“I was a little bit shy when I was younger, and sports helped me have the confidence to go out there and play hard, and then feel accomplished after, knowing that I helped my team”

 

Natalie began participating in organized sports at age four, playing on a boys’ team for one year before joining the Durham West Lightning Girls Hockey Association where she played for 12 seasons. Being a girl in hockey could sometimes be challenging, she says, knowing that she couldn’t aspire to reach the same heights as the boys, simply because a career in the NHL wasn’t available to her.

“I was pretty lucky because I played on a girls’ team growing up, so I was surrounded by a lot of other girls who had the same goals,” says Natalie. “But I also had three older brothers and I wanted to be just like them, and I figured out that I couldn’t exactly follow in their footsteps.”

She considers her gold medal win with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, to be the pinnacle of her career. And it’s gratifying to know that girls can now aspire to play for the CWHL, says Natalie. She’s proud to think that her example is helping fuel the dreams of young women.

Natalie recently took part in Scotiabank Girls HockeyFest, a free event with the Toronto Maple Leafs aimed at creating a positive hockey experience for girls in the Toronto area. Young hockey fans had the opportunity to meet Natalie, learn some new on-ice techniques and take home a keepsake hockey jersey.

“Just to see all the girls come out to learn some skills – they are super-pumped to be there and they all want to learn,” says Natalie. “It’s inspiring for me, too, to know that I am making a difference to them. They are the future of women’s hockey.”

Even with all the strides women in hockey have made in recent years, it still can be a difficult choice for women to pursue their passion rather than go with a more lucrative profession, says Natalie.

“One of the toughest decisions for me when I came out of university was, ‘Do I continue with hockey or do I go to med school?’ I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make the Olympic team or not,” she says. “But I think it’s getting better, and it’s only going to keep improving if girls keep playing sports and we keep pushing for what we deserve.”

 

“It’s getting better, and it’s only going to keep improving if girls keep playing sports and we keep pushing for what we deserve.”

 

Natalie says she and her colleagues in the CWHL hope the sport will grow to the point that women can make a living playing hockey full-time, and that’s part of the reason they are more than willing to take part in charitable and promotional activities that will help grow the game.

“We love hockey and we’re passionate about it,” she says. “We know there’s a long way to go still to get to the level we want the game to be at, but hopefully by the time those little girls grow up, they can make a living by playing hockey. As long as we’re doing our part, it’s going to get there eventually.”

 

 

Photo Credit: MIV Photography
NHL and the NHL Shield and the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. © NHL 2017. All Rights Reserved.